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One of my favourite pastimes is traveling with all my camera gear for work. It gives me such joy to carefully pack lenses, flashes, cards, and batteries. I love checking airline carry-on regulations, weighing my bag prior to departure, repacking, placing all the ‘if it gets lost, I won’t be totally screwed' items into checked luggage and all other amazing things that one has to be prepared for when traveling with gear. I also love sarcasm!
I have been on the look-out for a traveling suitcase for some time now, so when the opportunity presented itself to try out Petrol Bags’ DigiSuite , I went for it. Petrol is mainly known for their video gear bags, but they do offer a decent selection of DSLR bags as well.
The first thing I noticed when I took the bag out was a nicely padded carrying handle. It’s a small detail, but it’s highly appreciated. I absolutely despise plastic handles that cut into my hand under the weight of the bag. It also comes with the same side handle and a nicely padded shoulder strap, which can be hooked to solid D-rings. The next item on my check list was the zipper, since they are usually the first to break on a suitcase. This one is well made and inversely sewn for a clean overall look of the bag. It’s a dual-direction zipper that glides very smoothly and can be locked if need be.
A detail that I like about this bag is the customizable ID plate which can be removed and embroidered with your company branding. There is also a clear address card holder on the back of the bag. Other notable things include a tripod pocket with holder straps, as well as a front pocket that can fit an iPad, book, or anything else you might need on the go. The whole bag is well made with different grades of nylon fabric and has clean lines that don’t scream “camera bag”. It’s also on the lighter side of things at 3.6kg (7.92lb).
One thing that’s a bit concerning to me is the DSLR label on the front. Personally, I’d feel a bit better about the safety of my gear without the announcement. However, it’s an easy fix with the help of some black electrical tape.
Once you open the bag, it’s bright red. I love that! The colourful interior is always on my requirement list because it allows me to easily locate all those small, dark camera accessories. All the internal removable dividers are pretty standard, but well thought-out for the shape of this particular bag. You can comfortably fit in 10 lenses, a body with a long lens, and a backup camera without rearranging anything. A padded lens pouch that fits a 70-200mm size lens is also included and can be placed on top of everything.
I really love the two long zippered pouches for all the accessories. These attach to the interior with velcro so they won’t toss around inside the bag. A four CF card pouch is also included. Another feature is the large pocket on the inside of the front lid that fits a 17” laptop. I managed to pack all of my gear, including batteries, chargers, filters, cables, and even a small light stand with an umbrella inside this bag, not to mention a 17” laptop and an iPad. It passed the ‘packing challenge’ with flying colours.
This suitcase does not come with wheels, but a snaplock trolley system is available at an additional cost. I quite like the whole idea of a separate trolley that can be detached for the bag weigh-in at the airport. It can also be easily folded up and stored away. The trolley system is interchangeable with a number of other Petrol bags or can be used on its own.
It was time to try out this new bag, and I had the perfect opportunity to do so. I was flying to Mexico to shoot a destination wedding on a budget airline. However, the problem with those airlines is that they all have different size and weight restrictions for their carry-on luggage. The DigiSuite bag borders on a larger size for a carry-on and made me slightly nervous. After a fifteen minute search on the airline website for dimension restrictions, the picture looked bleak and was confirmed by the measuring tape. The suitcase was too large for their ‘standards’, granted that their restrictions were tighter than regular airlines.
After a bit of deliberation, with myself of course, it was decided that I’d be taking my good ol’ camera backpack as a carry-on and the DigiSuite without dividers as a regular checked suitcase, as per idea from Petrol’s website. After the initial disappointment of not being able to pack that bag full of camera gear, it was actually very pleasant to stuff it full of clothes. It’s a flat back suitcase, so all my dresses came out unwrinkled.
I double checked the size at the airport with the help of their metal contraption and indeed the bag didn’t fit. Another twist to my trip came when the ground staff told me that the carry-on restriction for their airline was only 5kg (11lbs) instead of the regular 10kg (22lbs)! I clutched my backpack, and said that there was no way that I’d be checking it in. She let me through, and mentioned, to avoid problems next time, I should hang cameras around my neck, put lenses into my pockets, and hold on to my laptop. Seriously?! The whole airline ordeal made it clear to me that even if the camera suitcase fulfilled the size restriction, it had to be almost empty to not exceed the 10kg (22lbs) weight restriction not to mention 5kg (11lbs).
Petrol’s DigiSuite is a well made bag that offers lots of storage space and neat little details. It’s not exactly carry-on friendly for all airlines, but if it does fit within the size restriction, the only thing you’d have to worry about is over packing. I bring mine to all local weddings as well as ‘by car’ destination travels. The bag retails for about $350CAN and the snaplock trolley is $80CAN.